The Ford government’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 could make life more dangerous in Ontario if the government won’t also protect the children, families and workers in and around the child care centres that operate out of publicly funded schools, warns CUPE.

The government has given school boards the discretion to allow nearly 3,000 child care centres – private, public, and not-for-profit – to continue operating in schools during the mandated two-week closure following March break. Boards can also choose to keep their schools open for extended-day programs, before- and after-school clubs, and community gatherings in the evening.

“By choosing to cancel classes instead of shutting down schools completely, the Ford government is taking half measures. And it clearly hasn’t thought through the implications of who will be hurt by them,” said Laura Walton of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), which represents 55,000 education workers in the province.

“The government can’t control the spread of COVID-19 if child care and other programs continue to operate in our schools. If low-income and casualized workers are denied income supports and sick days, they won’t be able to stay home to take care of themselves and their children. If school boards don’t shut their schools completely, custodians, caretakers and cleaners will have to risk their own health to keep them open.”

Walton stressed that she and her union believe that the government’s decision to cancel classes for two weeks is a responsible first move, but “to control the spread of COVD-19, there must be a full, province-wide school shutdown and adequate supports in place for the families and workers affected.”

“Tackling only parts of the COVID-19 outbreak carries its own dangers, including giving families and communities a false sense of security. To keep people safe, the government must close schools completely. It can’t leave it to the discretion of the boards to continue child care and other programs and put children, parents and workers at risk,” concluded Walton.